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THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY (UK): The week ahead: Oil, drugs, beer, cigarettes and Dettol. What more do you want?: “As for Shell, the Anglo-Dutch group should also have benefited from high commodity prices, with net income up from $4.1bn to $4.6bn.” ( 24 April 05


US companies report quarterly, meaning every few months there is a frenzy of action as market giants publish results. And so it is at the moment: this week alone expect to hear from Reebok, Kimberly-Clark,, Budweiser Anheuser-Busch, Starbucks, Procter & Gamble and Exxon Mobil, to name but a few.


But do not expect the UK to be completely outdone. Four of the FTSE 100's biggest stocks - BP, Shell, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca - with a combined value of nearly £270bn, are issuing first-quarter results.


Kicking off is BP. Lord Browne's oil giant, the UK's biggest company by market value, is expected to show quarterly profits of around $4.3bn (£2.2bn) on Tuesday. That's a hefty surge on last year's $3.5bn, helped largely by crude's record prices. But the focus is likely to be on Russia, in terms of both any update on production levels and Lord Browne's recent meeting with President Putin.


As for Shell, the Anglo-Dutch group should also have benefited from high commodity prices, with net income up from $4.1bn to $4.6bn.


In the drugs sector, it will be GlaxoSmithKline leading the way with predicted profits of £1.54bn, while Astra- Zeneca's numbers should rise from $1.1bn to $1.3bn. The sector has endured a tough time of late, as US authorities come down hard on safety concerns, and hard questions will no doubt be raised at both companies' presentations. There will also be a focus on blockbuster drugs like AstraZeneca's cholesterol treatment, Crestor, and how sales are faring.


Shire Pharmaceuticals is also reporting first-quarter figures, but most attention will be paid to the events of last week, when it announced the $1.6bn acquisition of American biotech Transkaryotic Therapies. Shire finished the week the market's biggest faller, as analysts decided that the group, which will use all its stored-up cash on the deal, had overpaid. Some shareholders agree.


Another market heavyweight updating investors on trading is consumer goods group Reckitt Benckiser, owner of Vanish, Air Wick and Dettol. Reckitt's results tend to be genteel affairs; the group has a reputation for delivering consistent growth. However, at its final results, the outlook for 2005 was cautious, and there are concerns that increased marketing costs will hit home, particularly in a tighter market. So this trading update will give an important indication of whether management was right to take its cautious stance.


Further down the blue-chip scale, a number of leisure and sin stocks are addressing the market, including Scottish & Newcastle, which is likely to detail a strong performance in Eastern Europe and a weaker one closer to home, Imperial Tobacco and Whitbread, the restaurant and hotels group.


Whitbread announced in March that it was quitting its high-end Marriott hotel franchise, so the focus will fall on Premier Travel, its budget offer- ing, and health-club brand David Lloyd Leisure. The market chatter has been that the Marriott deal signals the start of a break-up of the business, but investors hoping for any such announcement this week are likely to be disappointed.


Imperial Tobacco's interim results should, like Scottish &Newcastle, show strong Eastern European growth, though its key German and UK markets are likely to be softer. Meanwhile, British American Tobacco holds it annual general meeting. The group will touch on current trading, and Friends of the Earth will be protesting outside, so it should be an interesting day all round.


Also holding its AGM is Financial Times owner Pearson, which is likely to unveil its new chairman. And there will be a smattering of retail updates, with Wickes owner Travis Perkins and Wyevale giving an indication of whether Easter, traditionally the DIY sector's strongest period, was kind.


Mainland Europe is also giving the US a run for its money with a number of updates. Addressing investors will be Volvo, Puma, Siemens, Nestlé, Deut- sche Bank, DaimlerChrysler, Pinault Printemps Redoute - the luxury goods owner of Gucci, among others - and Elan.


The Irish drugs group has had a dismal time of late - along with its US partner Biogen Idec, which is also reporting this week - after its blockbuster Tysabri multiple sclerosis treatment was linked to patient deaths. Any update on the situation will be crucial as the two struggle to survive the setback.


Back home, and the CBI publishes its quarterly survey and the Nationwide its house price data. But overall it is a slower week for economic news as the election overshadows everything.




Tomorrow 25


UK: Results: (final) 3DM Worldwide, Empresaria Group, Harvey Nash Group, London Asia Capital, Solitaire Group, Stylo; (interim) Egdon Resources, IDMoS.


Tuesday 26


UK: Results: (F) Alexandra, Atrium Underwriting, Hitachi Capital, NMT Group, Panther Securities, Rugby Estates, Westbury, Whitbread; (I) Ferraris Group, Imperial Tobacco, Sanderson Group; (first quarter) Amvescap, BP, Reckitt Benckiser; (third quarter) Surfcontrol.


Wednesday 27


UK: Results: (F) European Motor Holdings, Gresham Computing, Intelligent Environments, Jennings Brothers.


Thursday 28


UK: Results: (F) Blacks Leisure Group, Body Shop International, Brown & Jackson, SkyePharma; (I) Formation Group,Punch Taverns; (Q1) AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Shell.


Friday 29


UK: Results: (Q1) Shire Pharmaceuticals.


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